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Italian Public Prosecutor Says File-Sharing Site Is 'Receiving Stolen Goods'

from the copying-is-not-theft dept

Sites that share unauthorized copies of various kinds of digital files are hardly news, and neither are attempts to shut them down. But a recent case in Italy breaks fresh ground here:

The Milan public prosecutor has ordered the seizure of assets of the Avaxhome "digital newsstand", a portal for "sharing" newspapers, books, comics and music DVDs. The claim of receiving stolen goods against the site was validated by the investigating magistrate in Milan after a complaint by Italian publishing group Mondadori in June. The website is based in Russia, and Italian ISPs have now blocked access to the site.
Since the site is based in Russia, seizing its assets might prove tricky. But what makes this decision important is the fact that the public prosecutor in Milan has gone beyond finding that the site infringes on copyright, and deemed it to be "receiving stolen goods" -- a far more serious charge.

As Fulvio Sarzana, the author of the blog post quoted above and lawyer for the Italian ISP association, explains (original in Italian):

"This seizure is a serious problem because for the first time in Italy and in the world putting copies of articles on the Web is considered to be receiving stolen property and not only infringement of copyright." According to the lawyer, "the risk is that from now on anyone whoever puts copies of articles on the Web will see their site closed and be on the receiving end of a charge that equates this case to that of a car thief."
Sarzana says that the Italian ISP association will appeal, so it's not certain that this dangerous equivalence will stand. But it's a worrying prospect that copyright infringement might be routinely equated to theft in this way, since the two are completely different for reasons that have been discussed many times here on Techdirt.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 9:42am

    This is what the maximalists have been working towards, and it looks like the prosecutor has fallen for their propaganda.

     

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  2.  
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    crade (profile), Dec 7th, 2012 @ 9:49am

    Soon STEALING someone's hairdo will be grand larceny too :)
    They are "property (tm)" afterall you know.

     

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  3.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Dec 7th, 2012 @ 9:53am

    So if those files count as 'stolen property' I assume the prosecutors are able to show the empty shelves/computer folders that used to contain the DVDs/CDs/Books/mp3s, and are now empty.

    No? Those items/files are all still where they were before, even after having been copied and shared? Not exactly 'stealing' then is it.

    Infringement, sure. Stealing? Not so much.

     

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  4.  
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    Nathan F (profile), Dec 7th, 2012 @ 9:56am

    So.. does this mean that since these files are property, and are being seized for the duration of the investigation and trial, that the original owners of the copyright can't make use of the original product? Again, I will bring up the fact that if they are going to insist on treating these things as a physical property I look forward to the day the government seizes said goods under eminent domain and releases it to the public.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eminent_domain

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 9:58am

    fucking Italians! couldn't tell the difference between their arse and their elbow! how the hell is any physical item comparable or confused with a digital item??

     

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  6.  
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    Michael, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 9:58am

    I wonder if they are going to ask Germany to help them march into Russia to seize this property.

    Protip: Wait until Spring this time.

     

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  7. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 10:01am

    Gee, is there NO way to avoid this risk?

    "the risk is that from now on anyone whoever puts copies of articles on the Web will see their site closed and be on the receiving end of a charge that equates this case to that of a car thief."

    Or are we all doomed to be charged with theft? ... OH, WAIT! I've got it! Just DON'T INFRINGE COPYRIGHT!

    Problem solved. Next re-write.

     

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  8.  
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    crade (profile), Dec 7th, 2012 @ 10:06am

    Re: Gee, is there NO way to avoid this risk?

    1) No one said avoid the risk was impossible
    2) I'm sayin it now anyway. Under current regs, being sure you are not infringing copyright is impossible. Yes, even if you live as a hermit.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 10:18am

    But what makes this decision important is the fact that the public prosecutor in Milan has gone beyond finding that the site infringes on copyright, and deemed it to be "receiving stolen goods" -- a far more serious charge.

    Seems right...

     

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  10.  
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    Glen, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 10:21am

    Par for the course.

    Of course these are the same people that convicted scientist for not accurately predicting earthquakes.

     

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  11.  
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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Dec 7th, 2012 @ 10:53am

    What can he do?

    This is one man - an investigating magistrate in Milan - making an assertion. Does this suddenly turn a digital file into a physical good? No. This shows a man of some small power exhibiting his profound ignorance of technology, and the consequences of that ignorance.

    If the Milan public prosecutor really wants to try out this novel legal theory (and not just do it to a Russian for the theater of it) I'm sure there are digital thieves in Milan. Raid THEM, and try to take these 'stolen goods' in hand.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 10:59am

    Sometimes I feel that judges and lawyers all over the world are becoming to start to look like fringe characters of society(e.g. climate change deniers, lizard people believers, doomsday sayers, etc), they do things that no one can understand let alone accept.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 11:00am

    Re: Gee, is there NO way to avoid this risk?

    First off, you're an idiot.

    "OH, WAIT! I've got it! Just DON'T INFRINGE COPYRIGHT!"

    See, the problem with that is people infringe on copyright every day. Most unknowingly. The majority of which do so both unknowingly and innocently. Like reposting a picture they saw online or something like that.

    So yeah, there really is NO way to avoid the risk. Also, what you fail to realize is that we now have a court INCORRECTLY conflating the act of making a digital copy with the actual act of theft, which actually involves physically depriving someone of something. The difference between making a copy and depriving someone is huge and should not be ignored just because one doesn't approve of the former.

    But as I said, you're an idiot. Like I said before, stop posting your brand of stupidity. From now on, just save us all time and write, "TL;DCTR. You're wrong." TL;DCTR standing for "too long, didn't care to read", since that's your usual modus operandi.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 11:00am

    If this does not get overturned then what is to stop Hollywood from getting congress to write this in the US law and with that effect every site that they object too would be seized and shutdown (without due process of law).

     

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  15.  
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    Aaron Wolf (profile), Dec 7th, 2012 @ 11:07am

    Re: Gee, is there NO way to avoid this risk?

    @out_of_the_blue:

    By your logic if they next say that copyright infringement is murder (you know, it threatens someone's income which is what they need to survive, so that makes it life-threatening, so you're killing them), and your reply: "well, if you don't want to be charged with murder, just DON'T INFRINGE COPYRIGHT!"

    Now, in case you don't get it, I'm using something called reductio ad absurdem. I'm not saying you actually would think this. I'm saying that your argument is equally logical as this absurd example, and I sure hope you aren't so insane that you think even this absurd example is reasonable. Cheers.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 11:10am

    Re:

    Plus the site operator going to jail for receiving stolen goods.

     

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  17.  
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    gorehound (profile), Dec 7th, 2012 @ 11:17am

    Re: Par for the course.

    And Italy home to the Joke Pope and Vatican.Site of one of the largest oldest Hate Groups in the World.

    There are tons of great Italians and great people of Italian Descent.Lots of other great stuff in Italy.

    Government is pretty Corrupted ! Then again there is not much of a difference here in Washington or in a bunch of other Nation's Governments.

     

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  18.  
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    crade (profile), Dec 7th, 2012 @ 11:21am

    Re:

    Thats the worst of it imho.. The way things are going we (we being everyone) seem to be ending up with basically the most controlling decisions and laws from anywhere eventually being pushed for and taking precendence everywhere.

    We already can't sing happy birthday to our kids, but it's going to get way worse before it gets better..
    On the flip side, if things get worse fast enough, people notice. The mafiaa needs to maintain the boiling frog effect, if they turn up the heat too much the people will wake up and jump out.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 11:45am

    Re: Par for the course.

    Yeah, that was exactly what I thought of too. Italy is unfortunately close to a developing nation when it comes to democracy. The 1990's Clean Hand and the newer reports showing up to 9% of Italys GDP being mafia traffic makes for quite a dystopian governance. I know most italians hate it too, but almost all politicians in Italy are seen as corrupt. At the same time the courts are hated and seen as biased in many cases and the way Berlusconi has run cycles around them...

    I think Italy is in huge beep. They cannot kill 9% of their GDP. That is far out in TBTF! Sure, they are doing ok in bringing down dept and they are doing ok economically, but just like France, they have severe fundamental problems in the economy and this desperate definition is just another brick in the wall.

     

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  20.  
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    Old Fool (profile), Dec 7th, 2012 @ 11:57am

    Any rewards?

    If a file is stolen property, do I get the usual 10% return fee from the insurance company upon returning it?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 12:23pm

    Re: Re: Gee, is there NO way to avoid this risk?

    This. Oh, and even if you are incredibly careful never to infringe, you can still be accused. We've all seen too often that to be accused of infringement is the same as being convicted.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Gee, is there NO way to avoid this risk?

    This. (Thanks for the add about "still be accused".) Because it's true, accusations of infringement actually happen on a regular basis, and the "evidence gathering" techniques are pretty much as shoddy as you can get without randomly just pointing a finger at someone and screaming "Pirate!" (Which sadly to say almost seems to be what is done.)

    And also DOUBLE THIS regarding the mere accusation of infringement being tantamount to a conviction. We already have six strikes programs being discussed and considered for mass deployment, six strikes for which no proof is provided against you merely an accusation, which you are then FORCED to pay just to be given the CHANCE to defend yourself and say "nuh uh". Or else, bye bye internet connection.

    That's a pretty scary/sad state of affairs. But people like Idiot up above would have you think that an accusation of infringement is the equivalent of actual theft and should be punished equally, if not more severely.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Par for the course.

    It's time scientists stop claiming to know things they do not.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 1:33pm

    Turn this back on the news sites.

    The news sites want to protect what they put on the net so the ISPs should protect them from anyone stealing their news stories by blocking all access to the news sites. That way no one can steal any of their news and put it online somewhere else, but the downside being no one will be able to access the news site either.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 7th, 2012 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Re: Par for the course.

    I have yet to hear a scientist claim to know something they do not, and I've worked with a LOT of scientists.

    However, nearly every media report I've ever read about what scientists say have falsely reported scientists claiming things they never claimed at all.

    The problem is not with the scientists, it's with the media.

    Disclaimer: Every group of people has it's frauds and loonies, of course, and scientists are no different. This is, in part, why you go with group consensus rather than a single scientist's findings. On the whole it's impossible to find a more reliable source of facts than those form the scientific community.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 2:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Par for the course.

    Here's just one example of many. Science has a real problem with credibility. I predict their will more scientists convicted before science begins to clean up their house.

    http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/07/epic-fraud-how-to-succeed-in-science-without-doing- any/

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 2:56pm

    Re: Re: Gee, is there NO way to avoid this risk?

    Especially as the content industry consider link to copyrighted material to be infringing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Dec 7th, 2012 @ 3:24pm

    Question!

    If copyrighted materials are now actual property, can I get insurance on all the files on my computer?

    That way, if I have to delete them, I can collect insurance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 7th, 2012 @ 3:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Par for the course.

    Ah yes, a single example of fraud that was caught by fellow scientists.

    There are a number of such examples, and almost every single one of them were caught by the scientific community. The examples of fraud are a miniscule percentage of the whole, as well.

    As I said, every group has bad apples. What gives credibility to the group is what happens when the bad apples are discovered. Scientists expose them and ignore their results from then on.

    I literally cannot think of how the community could behave that would be more credible. As to house-cleaning, the house is extremely clean. Not spotless (nothing is perfect), but the house cleaning is constant and ongoing.

    But in any case, your original comment wasn't about fraud, it was about scientists claiming to know things that they don't know. Scientists are extremely careful to avoid doing this, to a fault.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 4:19pm

    obviously this pr1ck has been paid for

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 5:45pm

    So does this mean id have grounds to sue third parties who have "stolen" my information, i.e. without consent

    Third party being ANYONE other then me

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 7:24pm

    Assumption

    Let's assume that even if the files are illegal...

    Maybe we can charge any airport warehouse for "Receiving Stolen Goods" because some passengers transport the stolen items out through there? How does that make sense?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    btrussell (profile), Dec 9th, 2012 @ 7:09pm

    Re:

    If I have a website that someone uploads infringing works to, how do I send it back to the rightful owner?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    Tim Griffiths (profile), Dec 10th, 2012 @ 2:35am

    Re: Gee, is there NO way to avoid this risk?

    Or are we all doomed to be charged with tax evasion?... OH, WAIT! I've got it! Just DON'T ILLEGALLY PARK YOUR CAR!

    Problem Solved.

    Or not, given what you said is that if you don't want to be charged with doing something you legally have not done you should not break another law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    cyber freedom fighter, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 2:18pm

    yeah called stealing

    its real that those big headed guys in suits talking away our cybernetic freedom to do anything on a computer like first if a file sharing site threatens to lower a companies profit trust me they will twist the truth just to save themselves but the real thevies are they them!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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